I've never been to Laguna Beach and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the hotel options. I'd like to stay in a hotel that is central and gives me good sense of what Laguna Beach is like. I'd love to know where locals tell their friends to stay when they visit, and why those areas and hotels are special. thanks!
There are a ton of hotel options at every 'star' level. 5 star = Montage Laguna Beach, 4 star = Surf and Sand Resort, 3+ star = The Inn at Laguna Beach.. if you must stay in a hotel, i'd check these out first. The Inn at Laguna Beach is more central than the other two but the reality is you can get anywhere in Laguna quickly and easily on the free trolley buses that run throughout town.
All that said, I would also consider looking at Air BnB or VRBO to get a locals feel. The main 'downtown' area is the Main Beach area (PCH and the 133) and south. I would definitely suggest exploring beaches up and down Laguna's coast - use the Trolley! Thalia St, Woods Cove beaches, Thousand Steps, etc. Hope this helps. Enjoy!
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